I recently saw this and this, and that got me thinking

When publishing a commercial game without DRM, would it be a good idea to upload a slightly modified copy of the game that shows a screen like this at startup to, say, The Pirate Bay:

Hello pirate! Looks like you downloaded this game from The Pirate Bay! That's okay, but: Making a game costs time and money. If you like the game, please buy it so we can continue to update this game with new content! You buy it for only $xx.xx at www.example.com!

In the meantime: Have fun!

Press Enter to continue

And then continues to the title screen and from there is identical to a legal copy.

The point is that it will probably (very, very, VERY high chance that it will) be uploaded sooner or later anyway, so this may decrease the harm.

Would that be a good idea?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there is no definite answer to this question, however I feel this is quite pointless. I've seen it in movies too, where they show a short video that says downloading this movie is like stealing a car, your wouldn't do that would you? I think most people will ignore this and just take it as an ignorable annoyance. I think it's best to make a player login to the game when playing multiplayer mode (and if you will also singleplayer). Off course, with a non purchased version this wouldn't work. It seems more effective to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jul 13 '13 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, for one thing its good marketing, people talk about it when they wouldnt without that move. If the game is good, then its gonna be there anyway, those guys seem to understand that and make the best out of it. At least the have publicity. \$\endgroup\$ – Maik Semder Jul 13 '13 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a lawyer, but I wouldn't call it pirating to download a game from TPB which the developer released for free by uploading it there himself. \$\endgroup\$ – msell Jul 13 '13 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jop There's nothing illegal about The Pirate Bay, just like there's nothing illegal about a computer. However, both can be used for illegal things. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Jul 14 '13 at 22:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think you are going to get a good answer for this kind of question. Generally "Should I?" questions depend on your personal preference. If you want to include the screen go ahead, but software pirates will only see it if they download the version you put online. If someone puts up the copy they paid for most likely you won't be able to easily detect if they are a pirate or not (unless you have like a login system or something). \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Danger Johnson Jul 15 '13 at 22:10

If it's a good idea or not is up to you. And the success of the strategy depends on what your actual goal is.

No Time to Explain did this way back in 2011. They uploaded a special version of the game to Pirate Bay that had all the characters wearing pirate hats.

“We thought it’d be funny to leak a pirate version ourselves which is literally all about pirates and pirate hats,” Alex told TorrentFreak. “I mean, some people are going to torrent it either way, we might as well make something funny out of it.”

enter image description here

It's unknown if the strategy of creating a special version just for pirates gets more pirates to buy the game instead of pirate it. However, it's been shown in the past to improve the media coverage of the game, potentially drawing more legitimate users. The developers of No Time to Explain said:

“We saw very positive WTF REALLY feedback from users, and saw reactions that people bought it simply because they liked the joke. So we don’t see it hurting sales in any way,” Alex said.

However, it's unclear if this strategy only works for games that were already popular, or if a fairly unknown game could be boosted into the spotlight with this method. Further, this strategy likely has limited uses. It's only been successful because it's somewhat unique and interesting. If every game does this, it's not as interesting and news sites stop reporting on it.

You could opt for a more subtle approach of just including a message for everyone, telling them you've worked hard on the game and you appreciate their purchase of the game. Something like what S.P.A.Z. did:

enter image description here

There are a number of approaches to marketing and getting your game more widely known. There isn't any evidence (as far as I know) of any strategies that effectively convert pirates into paying customers. So, if your intention of doing this is for marketing, then sure, it's worth a try, but if it's solely an attempt to convert pirates, you're not likely to have much success.


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